SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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We have already discovered functional differences that are expressed by the horizontal and by the vertical differences between the (distracting capacities of Smith and Fido. The analysis of these differences is the subject of the present chapter.
'Thought' represents a reaction of the organism-as-a-whole, produced by the working of the whole, and influencing the whole. From our daily experience, we are familiar with what we usually denote as being 'conscious'; in other words, we are aware of something, be it an object, a process, an action, a 'feeling', or an 'idea'. A reaction that is very habitual and semi-automatic is not necessarily 'conscious'. The term 'consciousness', taken separately, is not a complete symbol; it lacks content, and one of the characteristics of 'consciousness' is to have some content. Usually, the term 'consciousness' is taken as undefined and undefinable, because of its immediate character for every one of us. Such a situation is not desirable, as it is always semantically useful to try to define a complex term by simpler terms. We may limit the general mid undefined term 'consciousness' and make it a definite symbol by the deliberate ascribing of some content to this term. For this 'consciousness of something' I take 'consciousness of abstracting' as fundamental. Perhaps the only type of meanings the term 'consciousness' has is covered by the functional term 'consciousness of abstracting', which represents 11 general process going on in our nervous system. Even if this is not the only type of meanings, the term 'consciousness of abstracting' appears to be of such crucial semantic importance that its introduction is necessary.
The term 'consciousness', because of its hitherto undefined and traditionally undefinable character, did not allow us further analysis. Neither did we have any workable, educational, semantic means to handle the vast field of psycho-logical processes which this incomplete symbol indicated. If we now select the term 'consciousness of abstracting' as fundamental, we not only make the last symbol complete by assigning functional content to it, but we also find means to define it more specifically in simpler terms. Through understanding of the processes we gain educational means of handling and influencing a large group of semantic psycho-logical reactions.
Let us analyse this new term by aid of the diagram called the Struc-tural Differential referred to in the previous chapter. Here the object (O*) represents a nervous abstraction of a low order. In this abstracting, some characteristics of the event were missed or not abstracted; these are indicated by the not connected lines (B'). When we abstracted from our object further, by coining a definition or ascribing 'meanings'